Adele Brodkin: I agree that it's not pleasant to listen to whining. Perhaps it would help to try to understand what may be behind the whining. One might surmise that some children have found it to be the most successful manner of getting through to adults, who may be pre-occupied, at home and elsewhere. And as you suggest, whining is not the best way of communicating. Some children who feel overwhelmed by the expectations to be a "mature kindergartner", a school aged child who can focus and follow new directions, would rather go back to being "babies", a stage during which much less was expected of them. These are often children who inherently fear failure and embarrassment. Perhaps when introducing a new concept or task, you could add an encouraging word about it being new and therefore welcoming their questions, one at a time. And be sure to praise mature behavior, especially among those who had been regressing a bit through whining. In that way, you can indirectly demonstrate the rewards of growing up and enjoying the mastery of new tasks.
For more advice by Adele, check out the Between Teacher and Parent column.